Sensing safety: helping protect the public around rubbish collection vehicles10 September 2020

Waste collectors take to the streets on a daily basis – picking up and disposing of household and industrial waste. Operating such large vehicles when pedestrians, cyclists and other motor users are around requires the utmost attention. Cameras and detector systems can help improve operational safety. By Adam Offord

Transport associated with collection activities (municipal and commercial) and operations at a range of waste management and recycling sites represent the most significant risk of serious or fatal accidents to workers and members of the public, according to the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE;

It points out that there were a total of 57 fatalities in the waste management and recycling industry between 2001/02 and 2009/10 caused by ‘being hit by a moving vehicle’. At least 21 of those 57 fatalities, furthermore, were associated with the collection of municipal or commercial refuse.

The safety body offers some ‘main considerations’ to help prevent transport-related accidents. They include carrying out a route risk assessment to highlight major hazards and indicate how they may be avoided or the risks minimised, as well as identifying areas where it is reasonably practicable to carry out single-sided street collection to minimise the risks of refuse collectors crossing the road.

Another consideration surrounds safe reversing and use of reversing assistants. The risks associated with reversing vehicles can be reduced, it explains, by eliminating or reducing reversing manoeuvres wherever possible; devising and following safe systems of work; and using reversing aids, such as mirrors, CCTV, detectors and alarms.


Visual and audible aids can be of great help to refuse vehicle operators because there are typically several blind spots around such a large vehicle. These systems not only aid in reversing activities, but also they can help with front, near and far-side observation.

Vernon Bonser, sales director at in-vehicle CCTV technology supplier VisionTrack (pictured, right, p58), explains: “A combination of vehicle cameras and sensors can give the driver a 360°-view around the refuse collection vehicle via an in-cab monitor, providing visibility of cyclists, motorcyclists, pedestrians and other road users that they might not be able to see normally.

“Front, side and rear cameras ensure a refuse vehicle is covered from all angles, while corner, side and rear sensors warn of any risk nearby, especially in vehicle blind spots. The system can also be linked to a specific driving manoeuvres, so a driver can view the appropriate camera when the left-hand indicator or reverse gear is engaged, while audible alarms with a spoken message can also warn other road users of potential danger.”

Vehicle tracking and asset monitoring solutions provider Ctrack is now seeing a growing demand for integrated camera solutions to reduce risk, improve driving styles and provide video proof of incidents. The company’s rear camera offers IR (infrared) night vision up to 10 metres and 120°-wide viewing angle that can be linked to an in-cab monitor when reversing to provide a visual aid to the driver, while an audible alert can warn other road users to take caution.

“An external camera should possess the appropriate IP-rating [ingress protection] to ensure it is protected in all operating conditions,” says Ian Hoskins, senior video and telematics consultant at Ctrack (pictured, left, p58). “Most external cameras possess an IP67 rating, which ensures the device is protected against all weather conditions and can be immersed in water to a depth of between 15cm and one metre. However, Ctrack’s rear-facing camera is IP69K rated, to guarantee protection from powerful water jets, close-range pressure and high temperatures, providing added peace of mind.”

Meanwhile, its so-called side-scan kits using proximity sensors – for use down the sides of the vehicle – have a digital distance display with a buzzer linked to a four-channel monitor, so that the driver can see risk and be alerted via sound. This can be supplemented with external left and/or right alarms that alert pedestrians and cyclists of a vehicle manoeuvre.

“Alarm and alert notifications can be set through our online telematics platform,” continues Hoskins. “There are many different types of configurable solutions that Ctrack provides to enable the user to have every angle covered to ensure risk is minimised and all events are captured with video and accurate data. When an in-cab monitor is fitted and an event or risk occurs, the driver can be alerted and have access to live footage from the appropriate camera, providing complete visibility around the vehicle and of any adjacent vulnerable road users.”


Another company with complete buy-in to this school of thought is commercial vehicle safety product supplier Vision Techniques, which claims to work with over 90% of councils in the UK. A spokesperson for the company explains that its systems “protect all types of vulnerable road users, including pedestrians”. “They are design to improve awareness, help detect vulnerable road users and reduce the risk of accidents,” the spokesperson explains. “All our systems can be integrated so that fleet managers are using a combination of systems to ensure they are compliant and safe.”

One example is VT TURNSENSOR, which uses ultrasonic sensors to detect objects within range and warns of danger both visually and audibly to the driver with a digital indicator seated within the cab. Meanwhile, VT TURNALARM gains the attention of vulnerable road users by illuminating high-intensity LEDs, emitting a beeping noise and announcing a pre-recorded warning: ‘Caution: this vehicle is turning left’.

VT TURNAWARE is a blind spot camera system that uses video analytics software to detect anyone moving towards the vehicle and will warn the driver of their approach. The spokesperson explains: “[The system] analyses the camera’s image and senses whether a hazard is approaching the vehicle, [while] recognising and ignoring any stationary objects or street furniture. The driver is then warned with an audible alarm, and any movement is highlighted on the monitor. Unlike ultrasonic sensors that only detect within range, VT TURNAWARE provides full coverage along the full length of the vehicle.”

Another system – VT OVERVIEW – has been designed for slow speed manoeuvring in any direction.Four cameras are mounted around the vehicle, providing a 360° and bird’s eye view. The system works with each side camera to warn the driver if a car, cyclist or pedestrian enters the blind spot on either side of the vehicle, with overlapping images covering all angles.

Finally, VT BANKSMAN and VT BANKSMAN AUTOBRAKING also aim to reduce the risk of a collision. The former detects moving and stationary objects with in-cab visual and audible alarms alerting the driver to obstacles giving enough time to react. The latter takes this safety feature one step further and will bring the vehicle to a controlled stop, should the driver not respond to the alerts.

“Many of our systems are linked to a visual aid for drivers, whether that be in the form of an in-cab indicator or an in-cab monitor,” the spokesperson adds.


These are just a few examples of suppliers offering technological safety solutions for refuse vehicles. But where is such technology being used? One company that has implemented technological safety systems to its fleet of refuse vehicles is Veolia.

Chris Grime, national fleet manager for industrial, water, energy and hazardous at Veolia, and chair of IRTE Services, explains that the company has fitted an audible cyclist warning system from Vision Techniques to all of its commercial vehicle fleet. “When the left hand indicator is switched on, this piece of equipment activates and gives a loud warning saying that the vehicle is turning left and to please be careful,” he explains. “We call it a turn alarm and that is fitted to all of our HGVs and CVs across the UK in Veolia.”

Staying on the topic of the turn system, Veolia has also been trailing a driver warning system that detects a pedestrian or cyclist within close proximity on the near side of the vehicle and alerts the driver, he adds.

Another system that is fitted to all refuse vehicles at Veolia is a 360°-camera system that monitors the whole vehicle – front, back and both sides – and records all of the data on a hard drive in the vehicle cab. The camera also links to a monitor inside the cab. Furthermore, Veolia’s trucks also are equipped with separate reversing cameras, which Grime describes as ultra high-definition. “Every time the driver puts the vehicle into reverse, the monitor in the cab displays the rear view camera. It is an ultra-wide hi-definition camera that actually gives the driver an excellent view of the truck.

“We gather all statistics in terms of where our accidents are, and reversing is always a big issue; not necessarily damage to people but damage to vehicles and property. When you have such a big vehicle and you are reversing it into tight spaces, the potential is there for damage and accidents to happen, and having a good camera system gives the operator a better chance of avoiding that damage.”

As for maintenance, Grime explains that the driver is responsible for making sure that the safety systems are operating during his/her daily checks and operation. The systems are also checked on the six-weekly inspections that are carried out by either Veolia’s own workshops or contractors. “It is a part of our six-weekly safety regime to inspect [that] all those systems work,” he concludes.

Sensors, cameras and detectors can clearly give refuse vehicle operators a better chance of avoiding accidents and causing damage. Technology is becoming more advanced and these systems certainly have a role to play in helping operators to carry out their work and keeping members of the public safe.

BOX: Veolia safety trial in Sheffield

Last year, the government published best practice guidance for commercial vehicle operators on how to reduce the risk of vehicles being used as a weapon in a terrorist attack or other crime (

The guide, from the Department for Transport, offers advice that covers: security culture, including pre-employment checks for staff and drivers; site security, including vehicle access and operating centres; and vehicle security, including checking vehicles and what to do if a vehicle is taken. It also contains a list of recommended actions for commercial vehicle drivers.

As a consequence, Veolia has been trialling a security system called I-Dent on a number of vehicles in Sheffield. Chris Grime, national fleet manager for industrial, water, energy and hazardous at Veolia, explains: “A refuse vehicle has to be left running while the driver and operatives are loading the vehicle at the back – in particular with trade waste and areas where you’re collecting multiple bins. It has to be left running because that is what runs the equipment at the back of the vehicle, [but] there is of course the potential for someone to jump into the cab and drive away with it.”

As part of the trial, the driver wears a transponder on the wrist that communicates with a piece of equipment in the cab. “The system makes sure that the driver is in the seat before it will allow the handbrake to come off,” he adds, which prevents anyone else being able to drive it away.

Adam Offord

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